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Pterophyllum scalare

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Angelfish - Pterophyllum scalare

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angel2.jpg (20kb)
Pterophyllum scalare "Marble Veil"
Photo Credit: Marcos Avila
angel5.jpg (19kb)
Pterophyllum scalare "Gold Veil"
Photo Credit: Marcos Avila

Name: Pterophyllum scalare
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: Amazon Basin
15 cm 100 L 7.0 26C


Angelfish are in my opinion one of the grandest fish in the hobby. These semingly docile fish should not be trusted with small fish as they have a true cichlid appetite. These fish become 15 cm or more so a minimum of 35-40 liters per angelfish is required with a tank depth of atleast 40 cm. These fish aren't the brightest colored fish in the hobby, but make up for it in their stunning shape and finage. They are quite easily bred, and reared moderately easily. They will have an occasional fight, typical of cichlids. This is more evident if the tank is over stocked. A minimum tank size for a pair of these magnicicent fish is 75 liters. Better off kept in a species tank, as its fins are particularly tempting to more nippier species. If the discus is KING of the aquarium fish, the angelfish is definately the QUEEN.

Contributed by Lynn Estep

I can't say enough about these kings and queens of the aquarium! Extraordinarily beautiful and hardy, they adapt readily to almost any setup, given enough room and good conditions. They can be highly competitive at feeding times, and I have heard stories about very mean angels (as well as owned a bully or two myself). However, if raised from young (dime to quarter size) babies, I have found they can live with almost any tankmate and leave them alone. Mine totally ignore the school of cardinals and other delicate small fish they were raised with (if they had been introduced into the tank at the size they are now, I have no doubt they would have been dinner rather than roommates). They grow very fast and beginners should be aware of their maximum size before dumping a few cute babies into the tank. Large angels can reach up to 7" in a few short years. Also, be aware that the long finned (flowy looking with uneven ends) varieties are more succeptable to fin rot and harrassment by nippers such as tiger barbs and excessively active fish (such as some danios).

Contributed by Cecilia Chen

Although they have acquired an often well-deserved reputation as the bullies of the aquarium, angelfish also can demonstrate individual behavior traits bordering on "personality." While most tend toward territoriality, many are also playful, friendly, and capable of significant interaction both with other angels and creatures outside the aquarium glass. My six breeding pairs often "beg" the minute I approach, hurry to look at other large humans, and several of the males menace my young son, indicating not only an awareness of relative size, but an understanding that different individuals exist in the world outside their tanks. Watching these intelligent fish mature, breed, and raise their young provides my family with a never-ending source of entertainment, joy and sympathy. I have raised and kept many fish over the years, but none has captured my interest or my heart as completely as the often irritable, never predictable Pterophyllum scalare.

When breeding Angels, you can speed the growth of fry. Here's how I usually manage it with mine, in roughly the order of most influence on growth:
1. Tank space, tank space, tank space! If you want breeders to grow out fast as possible, you want to allow no less than 40 liters of tank space per Angel, even when they're only dime to quarter size. Weird, I know, but it really helps.
2. Clean water. 25%-30% weekly changes. (I do twice weekly on my baby growouts, and daily on my fry, but once they hit dime sized, weekly will do if they have enough space.
3. Good food, and many feedings: I suggest a combination of at least two flakes and frozen bloodworms, daily. Feed as much as they can eat in 15 seconds, FOUR times a day (total of one minute feeding). If you work, this can be done on an 8 AM, 5 PM, 8 PM, 11 PM schedule, or you can skip the late feeding and just feed 3x a day. My fish get flake in the morning, midday, and night, and defrosted bloodworms in the evening. As to different flakes, you can find earthworm flake and brine shrimp flakes if you look. Plain old Tetra flake will do, and if you can't find specialty flakes, don't panic: I've raised plenty of great looking Angels on Tetra flake and bloodworms alone.
4. Temperature. We're talking 28-29C degrees, constant. The temperature helps prevent disease and spur appetites (not that most angels require help in that area!)
5. Prophylactic medication. Once a month, defrost the bloodworms and drain off all the liquid. Then empty a single capsule of Metrozol (available at the lfs) into the worms, stir, and put back into the fridge for about an hour. Then feed to the angels as usual. Metrozol is a good, effective antibiotic/antiparasitic med that, if fed along with the worms, won't damage slime coat and will prevent infestations. I've had no problems with resistance feeding it once a month, and have - knock wood!! - never lost a fish to internal parasites.

Sexing Freshwater Angelfish: For most hobbyists, sexing angels is impossible before the fish are physically mature (though sexual maturity happens before the fish reach full size). Angels typically reach sexual maturity around 6-8 months of age in good water conditions, slightly later if the conditions are less than ideal. Trauma, overcrowding or illness can also delay the process. For those unaware of their fish's age: angels usually reach sexual maturity when their bodies (excluding fins) reach approximately 5 cm in diameter (roughly the size of a silver dollar, for those in the U.S.).

There are several ways of sexing angels, but the only foolproof ones are looking at their breeding tubes or getting them from a breeder or LFS who KNOWS the fish's sex. The second method costs more, but has the advantage of surety. I recommend paying extra and buying from a breeder if you know that you already have, say, a female, and need a male to go with her (though just having one of each sex does NOT guarantee a breeding pair - trust me).

If you're just curious or want to try and pick them yourself - the best, and only sure way is breeding tubes. Angels show breeding tubes when preparing to mate, or sometimes when other fish in the tank are doing so. The breeding tube extends down out of the fish's anal opening. Tubes begin to descend a few days before the fish breed, and can disappear within hours thereafter. Females' tubes are about the size and shape of a ball-point pen tip. Males' tubes are much smaller and more pointed in shape. Often, when one fish in a tank shows its tubes, others will also "tube" - suggesting there's a chemical element to mating, although this theory is, to my knowledge, as yet unproven. You may need to make several trips to the LFS to find "tubing" angels - but as I mentioned, this is the sure way of detecting their sex.

A female angel who's showing a tube will generally be full of eggs, making her appear more "fat" (viewed from the front) than a male angel - but check BEFORE they're fed! Afterward it can be hard to tell. Ordinarily, I would not recommend picking "females" because "they look fatter" - this is not generally a good way to pick angels. Some breeders can guess an angel's sex by their relative body thicknesses, but this can be difficult - especially if you're really interested in breeding them, because a "thin" male isn't really the best breeder choice. I prefer to select by tubes so I can get the largest, fattest males and females I can.

Actually, if you're looking for a pair, the best way to get one (and what I favor, if you have room) is to start with 6-8 young fish (quarter size at most) and raise them all in one tank (at LEAST 150 L) until they pair off naturally. The disadvantages of this method are fairly obvious: First, it takes time (up to 3-4 months from quarter size). Second, you'll need separate tanks (80 L at least) for each breeding pair you have, which can get expensive unless you're willing to part with the remaining fish once you've gotten a breeding pair from the group of 6-8 you began with. If you're just trying to sex fish you have, look for tubes.

Some people will try to tell you you can tell by looking for a "lump" on the male's crown (his forehead) - however, this isn't really accurate. I have seen lumpy females as well (though they're definitely more rare) and many, many males without the "lump". In fact, I personally do not breed lumpy-headed males, because I personally find them much less attractive than the males with nice rounded crowns. There seems to be no difference in terms of health - it's merely a cosmetic choice. Some people may also try to tell you you can sex angels by behavior. In a word...NO. I have had extremely aggressive males AND females, and have had very gentle males and females. It varies by fish, not by sex.

Contributed by Susan Ross (Jinlong)

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